Guidelines for reducing porpoise mortality in tuna purse seining
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AbstractMore than a decade has passed since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. During that time the U.S. tuna purse seine neet reduced its incidental porpoise mortality rate more than 10-fold. This was made possible through the development of gear and techniques aimed at reducing the frequency of many low probability events that contribute to the kill.Porpoise are killed by becoming entangled or entrapped in folds and canopies of the net and suffocating. The configuration of the net, both before and during the backdown release procedure, is a major determinant ofthe number of porpoise killed. Speedboats can be used to tow on the corkllne to prevent net collapse and also toadjust the net configuration to reduce net canopies prior to backdown. Deepening a net can reduce the probability of porpoise being killed by prebackdown net collapse. The effects of environmental conditions and mechanicalfailures on net configuration can result in high porpoise mortality unless mitigated by skilled vessel maneuvers orprevented by the timely use of speedboats to adjust the net.The backdown procedure is the only means to effectively release captured porpoise from a purse seine. It isalso the time during the set when most of the mortality occurs. The use of small mesh safety panels and aprons inthe backdown areas of nets reduces porpoise entanglement, and Increases the probability of an effective release.The tie-down points on the net for preparing the backdown channel must be properly located in order to optimize porpoise release. A formula uses the stretched depth of the net to calculate one of these points, making it a simple matter to locate the other. Understanding the dynamics of the backdown procedure permits a thorough troubleshooting of performance, thus preventing the repetition of poorly executed backdowns and thereby reducing mortality.Porpoise that cannot be released must be rescued by hand. A rescuer in a rigidly inflated raft can rescue porpoiseeffectively at any time during a net set. Hand rescue can make the difference between above average kill and zero kill sets. In all circumstances, the skill and motivation of the captain and his crew are the final determinants in the prevention of incidental porpoise mortality in tuna seining. (PDF file contains 22 pages.)
Publisher or UniversityNOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service
Series : NrNOAA Technical Report NMFS